Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Genesis of Age of Bronze

The first real book I remember getting was "D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths". It's still a children's book but it's not a kid's book, if you follow. The second I picked it up, I was hooked on Greek literature. The interest in that specific time morphed into a love of history, more generally. My brother and co-author never let the obsession go, though I can't write of when it started for him; he learned Latin and Greek when he was a teenager, got a Classical Studies degree, and teaches Latin.

When I was about nine and my brother five, we came into possession of a little boxed game called "Heroes of Olympus". We only sort of knew what a role-playing game was (I'd gotten the Monster Manual when I learned to tie my shoes; my folks thought it was just a collection of monster artwork), with my first Red Box experience still a year away. So we opened "Heroes of Olympus" and our minds were immediately blown.

Inside were a series of hex maps with big scenes from Greek myth drawn on them. Most are Jason and the Argonauts, the whole journey; the game was extremely focused on the Argonauts. There's a map for the fight between Herakles and the Nemean Lion and a few more; my memory's hazy. There were tons of cardboard chits representing monsters, heroes, ships, etc. And then there was this little booklet which had rules for playing the Argonauts in it. They were all just stated out, laid out and there for you. So we were freaking out even though the rules were a bit 80s wargame for two doofy kids to process fully.

But there, in the back of the book, there were rules for making your own Greek heroes. Not sidekicks, either. Full on badasses every bit of Jason or Herakles. It was like a lightning bolt had struck. Remember here, I'm obsessed with Greek myths. I played pretend sometimes and I was Sir Ian or King Ian of Athens but it was detached from the pretend world a knight or hero would be in. All of a sudden, this game brought it home: you mean that I can pretend a hero in Greece and Herakles will think I'm an equal? There was something about that validation, coming from a "real" person, which gave the whole thing a certain verisimilitude that just being the sole hero or the hero in a made up world didn't.

I never quite got that feeling from my gaming again until I picked up KAP at about the age 16. It imparted the same sense that my character's achievements weren't diminished if Gawaine was looking on but, rather, were given a realness and point of reference that a non-historical game never could for me. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to play it with me. I was okay with that; I've always thought that KAP was ahead of its time until just recently, when everything else caught up. Besides, this was at the height of TSR's setting boom and White Wolf's first cresting... there was a lot of really, really good stuff to play.

Fast forward to about this time last year. I'd been playing in the Grand Pendragon Campaign, slowly and with group shuffles, for about three years. Greg Stafford had posted on the KAP forums that he and Stewart Wieck were interested in receiving submissions for new games using the KAP system. I'd kind of had an idea in the back of my brain that no system had ever quite captured the feeling Heroes of Olympus had (feeling, here, which is mushy and vague; the rules were quite another matter) other than KAP. I finally figured out some things I would do with a Bronze Age KAP variation and called up Peter, my brother.

I said I was doing this but I needed a partner to bounce rules back and forth with. More importantly, I needed someone with the trained knowledge to make the historical and literary grittiness right the first time and attractive. He said sure and I wrote a proposal to Greg's specifications.

I wasn't actually expecting to hear back but I did. He didn't just like it, he loved it. He turned us loose with a contract and we hammered on it for the next eight months. When he received the final draft, he loved it even more and suggested a few tweaks and additions, which we're doing now.

And that's Age of Bronze.

Edit: If you're new here, coming in from a link or whatnot, forgive the weirdness with text background color. I switched styles and things seem to be a little messed up in ways I can't seem to fully correct.

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